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others, though I have had some thought of Hay, Warner, Twichell,
Aldrich, Osgood, Fields, Higginson, and a few more, together with
Mrs. Howells, Mrs. Clemens, and certain others of the sex. I have
long felt there ought to be an organized gang of our kind.

He appends the by-laws, the main ones being:

The object of the club shall be to eat and talk.

Qualification for membership shall be aggravated modesty,
unobtrusiveness, native humility, learning, talent, intelligence,
unassailable character.

There shall be no officers except a president, and any member who
has anything to eat and talk about may constitute himself president
for the time being.

Any brother or sister of the order finding a brother or a sister in
imminently deadly peril shall forsake his own concerns, no matter at
what cost, and call the police.

Any member knowing anything scandalous about himself shall
immediately inform the club, so that they shall call a meeting and
have the first chance to talk about it.

It was one of his whimsical fancies, and Howells replied that he would
like to join it, only that he was too modest - that is, too modest to
confess that he was modest enough for membership.

He added that he had sent a letter, with the rules, to Hay, but doubted
his modesty. He said:

"He will think he has a right to belong as much as you or I."

Howells agreed that his own name might be put down, but the idea seems
never to have gone any further. Perhaps the requirements of membership
were too severe.



Eighteen hundred and eighty was a Presidential year. General Garfield
was nominated on the Republican ticket (against General Hancock), and
Clemens found him satisfactory.

Garfield suits me thoroughly and exactly [he wrote Howells]. I prefer
him to Grant's friends. The Presidency can't add anything to Grant; he
will shine on without it. It is ephemeral; he is eternal.

That was the year when the Republican party became panicky over the
disaffection in its ranks, due to the defeat of Grant in the convention,
and at last, by pleadings and promises, conciliated Platt and Conkling
and brought them into the field. General Grant also was induced to save
the party from defeat, and made a personal tour of oratory for that
purpose. He arrived in Hartford with his family on the 16th of October,
and while his reception was more or less partizan, it was a momentous
event. A vast procession passed in review before him, and everywhere
houses and grounds were decorated. To Mrs. Clemens, still in Elmira,
Clemens wrote:

I found Mr. Beals hard at work in the rain with his decorations.
With a ladder he had strung flags around our bedroom balcony, and
thence around to the porte-cochere, which was elaborately flagged;
thence the flags of all nations were suspended from a line which
stretched past the greenhouse to the limit of our grounds. Against
each of the two trees on the mound, half-way down to our gate,
stands a knight in complete armor. Piles of still-bundled flags
clutter up the ombra (to be put up), also gaudy shields of various
shapes (arms of this and other countries), also some huge glittering
arches and things done in gold and silver paper, containing mottoes
in big letters. I broke Mr. Beals's heart by persistently and
inflexibly annulling and forbidding the biggest and gorgeousest of
the arches - it had on it, in all the fires of the rainbow, "The Home
of Mark Twain," in letters as big as your head. Oh, we're going to
be decorated sufficient, don't you worry about that, madam.

Clemens was one of those delegated to receive Grant and to make a speech
of welcome. It was a short speech but an effective one, for it made
Grant laugh. He began:

"I am among those deputed to welcome you to the sincere and cordial
hospitalities of Hartford, the city of the historic and revered
Charter Oak, of which most of the town is built." He seemed to be
at loss what to say next, and, leaning over, pretended to whisper to
Grant; then, as if he had obtained the information he wanted, he
suddenly straightened up and poured out the old-fashioned eulogy on
Grant's achievements, adding, in an aside, as he finished:

"I nearly forgot that part of my speech," which evoked roars of
laughter from the assembly and a grim smile from Grant. He spoke of
Grant as being out of public employment, with private opportunities
closed against him, and added, "But your country will reward you,
never fear."

Then he closed:

When Wellington won Waterloo, a battle about on a level with any one
of a dozen of your victories, sordid England tried to pay him for
that service with wealth and grandeurs. She made him a duke and
gave him $4,000,000. If you had done and suffered for any other
country what you have done and suffered for your own you would have
been affronted in the same sordid way. But, thank God! this vast
and rich and mighty republic is imbued to the core with a delicacy
which will forever preserve her from so degrading you.

Your country loves you - your country's proud of you - your country is
grateful to you. Her applauses, which have been many, thundering in
your ears all these weeks and months, will never cease while the
flag you saved continues to wave.

Your country stands ready from this day forth to testify her
measureless love and pride and gratitude toward you in every
conceivable - inexpensive way. Welcome to Hartford, great soldier,
honored statesman, unselfish citizen.

Grant's grim smile showed itself more than once during the speech, and
when Clemens reached the sentence that spoke of his country rewarding him
in "every conceivable - inexpensive way" his composure broke up completely
and he "nearly laughed his entire head off," according to later
testimony, while the spectators shouted their approval.

Grant's son, Col. Fred Grant, - [Maj.-Gen'l, U. S. Army, 1906. Died
April, 1912.] - dined at the Clemens home that night, and Rev. Joseph
Twichell and Henry C. Robinson. Twichell's invitation was in the form
of a telegram. It said:

I want you to dine with us Saturday half past five and meet Col.
Fred Grant. No ceremony. Wear the same shirt you always wear.

The campaign was at its height now, and on the evening of October 26th
there was a grand Republican rally at the opera-house with addresses by
Charles Dudley Warner, Henry C. Robinson, and Mark Twain. It was an
unpleasant, drizzly evening, but the weather had no effect on their
audience. The place was jammed and packed, the aisles, the windows, and
the gallery railings full. Hundreds who came as late as the hour
announced for the opening were obliged to turn back, for the building had
been thronged long before. Mark Twain's speech that night is still
remembered in Hartford as the greatest effort of his life. It was hardly
that, except to those who were caught in the psychology of the moment,
the tumult and the shouting of patriotism, the surge and sweep of the
political tide. The roaring delight of the audience showed that to them
at least it was convincing. Howells wrote that he had read it twice, and
that he could not put it out of his mind. Whatever its general effect
was need not now be considered. Garfield was elected, and perhaps
Grant's visit to Hartford and the great mass-meeting that followed
contributed their mite to that result.

Clemens saw General Grant again that year, but not on political business.
The Educational Mission, which China had established in Hartford - a
thriving institution for eight years or more - was threatened now by
certain Chinese authorities with abolishment. Yung Wing (a Yale
graduate), the official by whom it had been projected and under whose
management it had prospered, was deeply concerned, as was the Rev. Joseph
Twichell, whose interest in the mission was a large and personal one.
Yung Wing declared that if influence could be brought upon Li Hung Chang,
then the most influential of Chinese counselors, the mission might be
saved. Twichell, remembering the great honors which Li Hung Chang had
paid to General Grant in China, also Grant's admiration of Mark Twain,
went to the latter without delay. Necessarily Clemens would be
enthusiastic, and act promptly. He wrote to Grant, and Grant replied by
telegraph, naming a day when he would see them in New York.

They met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Grant was in fine spirits, and by no
means the "silent man" of his repute.

He launched at once into as free and flowing talk as I have ever heard
[says Twichell], marked by broad and intelligent views on the subject of
China, her wants, disadvantages, etc. Now and then he asked a question,
but kept the lead of the conversation. At last he proposed, of his own
accord, to write a letter to Li Hung Chang, advising the continuance of
the Mission, asking only that I would prepare him some notes, giving him
points to go by. Thus we succeeded easily beyond our expectations,
thanks, very largely, to Clemens's assistance.

Clemens wrote Howells of the interview, detailing at some length
Twichell's comical mixture of delight and chagrin at not being given time
to air the fund of prepared statistics with which he had come loaded. It
was as if he had come to borrow a dollar and had been offered a thousand
before he could unfold his case.



It was near the end of the year that Clemens wrote to his mother:

I have two stories, and by the verbal agreement they are both going
into the same book; but Livy says they're not, and by George! she
ought to know. She says they're going into separate books, and that
one of them is going to be elegantly gotten up, even if the elegance
of it eats up the publisher's profits and mine too.

I anticipate that publisher's melancholy surprise when he calls here
Tuesday. However, let him suffer; it is his own fault. People who
fix up agreements with me without first finding out what Livy's
plans are take their fate into their own hands.

I said two stories, but one of them is only half done; two or three
months' work on it yet. I shall tackle it Wednesday or Thursday;
that is, if Livy yields and allows both stories to go in one book,
which I hope she won't.

The reader may surmise that the finished story - the highly regarded
story - was 'The Prince and the Pauper'. The other tale - the unfinished
and less considered one was 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. Nobody
appears to have been especially concerned about Huck, except, possibly,
the publisher.

The publisher was not the American Company. Elisha Bliss, after long ill
health, had died that fall, and this fact, in connection with a growing
dissatisfaction over the earlier contracts, had induced Clemens to listen
to offers from other makers of books. The revelation made by the
"half-profit" returns from A Tramp Abroad meant to him, simply that the
profits had not been fairly apportioned, and he was accordingly hostile.
To Orion he wrote that, had Bliss lived, he would have remained with the
company and made it reimburse him for his losses, but that as matters
stood he would sever the long connection. It seemed a pity, later, that
he did this, but the break was bound to come. Clemens was not a business
man, and Bliss was not a philanthropist. He was, in fact, a shrewd,
capable publisher, who made as good a contract as he could; yet he was
square in his dealings, and the contract which Clemens held most bitterly
against him - that of 'Roughing It' - had been made in good faith and in
accordance with the conditions, of that period. In most of the later
contracts Clemens himself had named his royalties, and it was not in
human nature - business human nature - for Bliss to encourage the size of
these percentages. If one wished to draw a strictly moral conclusion
from the situation, one might say that it would have been better for the
American Publishing Company, knowing Mark Twain, voluntarily to have
allowed him half profits, which was the spirit of his old understanding
even if not the letter of it, rather than to have waited till he demanded
it and then to lose him by the result. Perhaps that would be also a
proper business deduction; only, as a rule, business morals are regulated
by the contract, and the contract is regulated by the necessities and the
urgency of demand.

Never mind. Mark Twain revised 'The Prince and the Pauper', sent it to
Howells, who approved of it mightily (though with reservations as to
certain chapters), and gave it to James R. Osgood, who was grateful and
agreed to make it into a book upon which no expense for illustration or
manufacture should be spared. It was to be a sort of partnership
arrangement as between author and publisher, and large returns were

Among the many letters which Clemens was just then writing to Howells one
was dated "Xmas Eve." It closes with the customary pleasantries and the
final line:

"But it is growing dark. Merry Christmas to all of you!"

That last was a line of large significance. It meant that the air was
filled with the whisper of hovering events and that he must mingle with
the mystery of preparation. Christmas was an important season in the
Clemens home. Almost the entire day before, Patrick was out with the
sleigh, delivering food and other gifts in baskets to the poor, and the
home preparations were no less busy. There was always a tree - a large
one - and when all the gifts had been gathered in - when Elmira and
Fredonia had delivered their contributions, and Orion and his wife in
Keokuk had sent the annual sack of hickory-nuts (the big river-bottom
nuts, big as a silver dollar almost, such nuts as few children of this
later generation ever see) when all this happy revenue had been gathered,
and the dusk of Christmas Eve had hurried the children off to bed, it was
Mrs. Clemens who superintended the dressing of the tree, her husband
assisting, with a willingness that was greater than his skill, and with a
boy's anticipation in the surprise of it next morning.

Then followed the holidays, with parties and dances and charades, and
little plays, with the Warner and Twichell children. To the Clemens home
the Christmas season brought all the old round of juvenile happiness - the
spirit of kindly giving, the brightness and the merrymaking, the gladness
and tenderness and mystery that belong to no other season, and have been
handed down through all the ages since shepherds watched on the plains of



The tradition that fires occur in groups of three was justified in the
Clemens household that winter. On each of three successive days flames
started that might have led to ghastly results.

The children were croupy, and one morning an alcohol lamp near little
Clara's bed, blown by the draught, set fire to the canopy. Rosa, the
nurse, entered just as the blaze was well started. She did not lose her
presence of mind, - [Rosa was not the kind to lose her head. Once, in
Europe, when Bay had crept between the uprights of a high balustrade, and
was hanging out over destruction, Rosa, discovering her, did not scream
but spoke to her playfully and lifted her over into safety.] - but
snatched the little girl out of danger, then opened the window and threw
the burning bedding on the lawn. The child was only slightly scorched,
but the escape was narrow enough.

Next day little Jean was lying asleep in her crib, in front of an open
wood fire, carefully protected by a firescreen, when a spark, by some
ingenuity, managed to get through the mesh of the screen and land on the
crib's lace covering. Jean's nurse, Julia, arrived to find the lace a
gust of flame and the fire spreading. She grabbed the sleeping Jean and
screamed. Rosa, again at hand, heard the scream, and rushing in once
more opened a window and flung out the blazing bedclothes. Clemens
himself also arrived, and together they stamped out the fire.

On the third morning, just before breakfast-time, Susy was practising at
the piano in the school-room, which adjoined the nursery. At one end of
the room a fire of large logs was burning. Susy was at the other end of
the room, her back to the fire. A log burned in two and fell, scattering
coals around the woodwork which supported the mantel. Just as the blaze
was getting fairly started a barber, waiting to trim Mr. Clemens's hair,
chanced to look in and saw what was going on. He stepped into the
nursery bath-room, brought a pitcher of water and extinguished the
flames. This period was always referred to in the Clemens household as
the "three days of fire."

Clemens would naturally make philosophical deductions from these
coincidental dangers and the manner in which they had been averted. He
said that all these things were comprehended in the first act of the
first atom; that, but for some particular impulse given in that remote
time, the alcohol flame would not have blown against the canopy, the
spark would not have found its way through the screen, the log would not
have broken apart in that dangerous way, and that Rosa and Julia and the
barber would not have been at hand to save precious life and property. He
did not go further and draw moral conclusions as to the purpose of these
things: he never drew conclusions as to purpose. He was willing to rest
with the event. Logically he did not believe in reasons for things, but
only that things were.

Nevertheless, he was always trying to change them; to have a hand in
their improvement. Had you asked him, he would have said that this, too,
was all in the primal atom; that his nature, such as it was, had been
minutely embodied there.

In that charming volume, 'My Mark Twain', Howells tells us of Clemens's
consideration, and even tenderness, for the negro race and his effort to
repair the wrong done by his nation. Mark Twain's writings are full of
similar evidence, and in his daily life he never missed an opportunity to
pay tribute to the humbler race. He would go across the street to speak
to an old negro, and to take his hand. He would read for a negro church
when he would have refused a cathedral. Howells mentions the colored
student whose way through college Clemens paid as a partial reparation
"due from every white man to every black man." - [Mark Twain paid two
colored students through college. One of them, educated in a Southern
institution, became a minister of the gospel. The other graduated from
the Yale Law School.] - This incident belongs just to the period of which
we are now writing, and there is another which, though different enough,
indicates the same tendency.

Garfield was about to be inaugurated, and it was rumored that Frederick
Douglass might lose his position as Marshal of the District of Columbia.
Clemens was continually besought by one and another to use his influence
with the Administration, and in every case had refused. Douglass had
made no such, application. Clemens, learning that the old negro's place
was in danger, interceded for him of his own accord. He closed his
letter to General Garfield:

A simple citizen may express a desire, with all propriety, in the
matter of recommendation to office, and so I beg permission to hope
that you will retain Mr. Douglass in his present office of Marshal
of the District of Columbia, if such a course will not clash with
your own preferences or with the expediencies and interests of your
Administration. I offer this petition with peculiar pleasure and
strong desire, because I so honor this man's high and blemishless
character, and so admire his brave, long crusade for the liberties
and elevation of his race.

He is a personal friend of mine, but that is nothing to the point;
his history would move me to say these things without that, and I
feel them, too.

Douglass wrote to Clemens, thanking him for his interest; at the end he

I think if a man is mean enough to want an office he ought to be
noble enough to ask for it, and use all honorable means of getting
it. I mean to ask, and I will use your letter as a part of my
petition. It will put the President-elect in a good humor, in any
case, and that is very important.

With great respect,
Gratefully yours,

Mark Twain's benefactions were not all for the colored race. One morning
in February of this same year, while the family were at late breakfast,
George came in to announce "a lady waiting to see Mr. Clemens in the
drawing-room." Clemens growled.

"George," he said, "it's a book agent. I won't see her. I'll die, in my
tracks first."

He went, fuming and raging inwardly, and began at once to ask the nature
of the intruder's business. Then he saw that she was very young and
modest, with none of the assurance of a canvasser, so he gave her a
chance to speak. She told him that a young man employed in Pratt &
Whitney's machine-shops had made a statue in clay, and would like to have
Mark Twain come and look at it and see if it showed any promise of future
achievement. His name, she said, was Karl Gerhardt, and he was her
husband. Clemens protested that he knew nothing about art, but the young
woman's manner and appearance (she seemed scarcely more than a child) won
him. He wavered, and finally promised that he would come the first
chance he had; that in fact he would come some time during the next week.
On her suggestion he agreed to come early in the week; he specified
Monday, "without fail."

When she was gone, and the door shut behind her, his usual remorse came
upon him. He said to himself:

"Why didn't I go now? Why didn't I go with her now?"

She went from Clemens's over to Warner's. Warner also resisted, but,
tempted beyond his strength by her charm, laid down his work and went at
once. When he returned he urged Clemens to go without fail, and, true to
promise, Clemens took Patrick, the coachman, and hunted up the place.
Clemens saw the statue, a seminude, for which the young wife had posed,
and was struck by its evident merit. Mrs. Gerhardt told him the story of
her husband's struggles between his daily work and the effort to develop
his talent. He had never had a lesson, she said; if he could only have
lessons what might he not accomplish?

Mrs. Clemens and Miss Spaulding called next day, and were equally carried
away with Karl Gerhardt, his young wife, and his effort to win his way in
art. Clemens and Warner made up their minds to interest themselves
personally in the matter, and finally persuaded the painter J. Wells
Champney to come over from New York and go with them to the Gerhardts'
humble habitation, to see his work. Champney approved of it. He thought
it well worth while, he said, for the people of Hartford to go to the
expense of Gerhardt's art education. He added that it would be better to
get the judgment of a sculptor. So they brought over John Quincy Adams
Ward, who, like all the others, came away bewitched with these young
people and their struggles for the sake of art. Ward said:

"If any stranger had told me that this 'prentice did not model that thing
from plaster-casts I should not have believed it. It's full of
crudities, but it's full of genius, too. Hartford must send him to Paris
for two years; then, if the promise holds good, keep him there three

When he was gone Mrs. Clemens said:

"Youth, we won't wait for Hartford to do it. It would take too long. Let
us send the Gerhardts to Paris ourselves, and say nothing about it to any
one else."

So the Gerhardts, provided with funds and an arrangement that would
enable them to live for five years in Paris if necessary, were started
across the sea without further delay.

Clemens and his wife were often doing something of this sort. There was
seldom a time that they were not paying the way of some young man or
woman through college, or providing means and opportunity for development
in some special field of industry.



Mark Twain's literary work languished during this period. He had a world
of plans, as usual, and wrote plentifully, but without direction or
conclusion. "A Curious Experience," which relates a circumstance told to
him by an army officer, is about the most notable of the few completed

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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineMark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 → online text (page 10 of 20)